The 1989 Convention on the Rights of Children and ratified by Rwanda a year later is very clear:
“States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.”
Rwanda’s Integrated Child Policy is also firm that no child under 16 will be exposed to hard labour and can only perform light chores at home after school hours.
The priority is to give a child a decent education through the universal free 12 years of education, but unfortunately, many parents and exploitative employers disregard that policy.
Many children are forced to leave the safety of their homes due to disconnected families and many invade major towns to escape their homes or help bring food on the table. Those are the ones who are targeted for exploitation.
The most vulnerable are young girls who sometimes fall victim to sexual abuse by their predator employers. So the question that jumps on the mind is; where are the local leaders? They should be the first to decipher signs of domestic trouble that could lead to potential child abuse.
It is a common sight to see school-aged children loitering by the roadsides or shopping centres and events offering vehicle security in exchange for a few coins, right under the noses of local leaders. The same can be said for parents, the first line of defence.
Some time ago there was talk of sanctioning parents of street children but those threats have remained just that. Elaborating good policies is fine, but implementing them is more important.